07 SEPTEMBER 2016
All of our ruminant farming systems in the UK are built around a solid foundation of good forage. In the North of England this solid foundation is made up in some form or other by grass; either grazed or conserved.
Regardless of whether it is to be cut or grazed, the quality of the sward has a huge impact on performance, margins and profitability. Quite simply, a high performing grass ley can reduce the need for bought-in feeds and increase the amount of milk from forage.
The performance of a ley overall is difficult to measure, but over time the species of grasses that were sown begin to die out and are replaced by weed grasses that tend to be less productive and lower quality. By the time a ley is eight years old, only 60% of the sown grasses will still be there, with the other 40% now either bare patches or weeds and weed grasses.
This fall in performance over time can reduce the output of grass by as much as 35%, reduce the energy value by up to 1.5 MJ/kg DM and reduce responsiveness to Nitrogen applications by 40%. Overall, the cost to grow 1kg of grass can double and the loss of energy is equivalent to around 15,000 litres per hectare.
Choosing the right seed to ensure long term productivity is therefore crucial and there is significant variation in seed quality available on the market. The UK Seed Certification standards only require between 75% and 80% of the seed supplied (depending on species) to be live seed. That means that up to a quarter of the seed used will never produce a plant.
On top of this, those same standards allow up to 1,250 dock seeds, 25,000 black grass seeds and 30,000 couch grass seeds that can be present per acre. The effect this could have on the performance of a new ley is massive.
To combat this, Dugdale Nutrition have partnered with HF Seeds to supply grass mixtures to customers across our trading area. The excellent seed stocks and rigorous levels of purity give these mixtures a clear advantage.
They boast a minimum germination of 90% meaning that swards are denser, have more plants per acre and establish better. There is also the effect of receiving up to an extra 20% live seed in every bag.
The seed mixtures chosen by Dugdale Nutrition also have much more stringent standards on the weed seed content. The mixtures contain no dock seeds and only 2,500 seeds of black grass and couch grass in every 1-acre pack. That’s a reduction in weed contamination from these grasses of around 90%.
For more information on the grass seed mixtures available and for advice on choosing the right mixture for your farm, contact Dugdale Nutrition on 01200 420200 or your local Ruminant Specialist.